At the coming out party for the new ZR1 Corvette last week at Milford Proving Grounds, General Motors decided to bring out a handful of ZR-1s (note the dash to distinguish it from the new model) from the first go around in the early '90s to remind us all of how far things have progressed in the past 18 years. The original ZR-1 was built from 1990-95 and, as with the new model, its engine was the heart of the car. In the late '80s when the ZR-1 was conceived, GM owned Lotus. The British sports car specialist designed the LT5 V8 specifically for the ZR-1. Aside from sharing bore spacing with the regular small-block, they had nothing else in common. The LT5 was an all-aluminum, dual overhead cam, 32 valve V8. At the time of its introduction, the motor had an output of 375 hp (eventually bumped to 405 hp in the last couple years of production), which was huge for the day, though tame by today's standards.
Unfortunately, the C4 Corvette wasn't a great car to start with. Even with the beefed up sills that were added to to the convertible, the C4 wasn't particularly rigid. The car rode hard and the huge clam-shell hood quivered constantly on anything but glass smooth pavement. While the expensive ZR-1 never sold in huge numbers, it did spawn some interesting derivatives that GM keeps in its Heritage Collection. Among the ones brought to Milford were one of the active suspension prototypes. These used a fully active hydraulic suspension system with no springs, but the hydraulics reportedly consumed upwards of 40 hp. One unique car from the collection is the DR-1 (above). This was the only ZR-1 convertible ever built and was produced for Don Runkle (hence the DR), who at the time was chief engineer at Chevrolet. The other three cars were stock ZR-1s of various vintages.
Check back here at 12:01 AM EST for our First Drive of the new Corvette ZR1.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.